The Miami Symphony Orchestra emphasized the art in “Moz-Art” Saturday night at Wertheim Performing Arts Center, with a program of mostly classical works framing a compelling artistic collaboration between MISO and local children.
Sinfonia Clasica by MISO composer-in-residence Paul Desenne received a polished North American premiere under the baton of MISO concertmaster and guest conductor Daniel Andai. Written in 2013 for Venezuela’s El Sistema youth orchestras, Desenne calls the piece a didactic symphony.
The surprisingly Mozartian work initially suggested that MISO had switched the program order, moving the last piece by Antonio Salieri to the opening. Classical themes never strayed from pleasant, and hints at a more contemporary language finally came in brief jazzy chords, lush romantic strings, and a broad, Latin-infused interlude.
The real Classical deal came with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sunny Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488, featuring Spanish pianist Ignasi Cambra. At 25, Cambra, who is blind, projects a likable, boyish impression.
In a genteel rendition of the Allegro, Cambra’s tender, bell-like melodies soared above unified strings and colorful winds. Demonstrating exquisite balance, Cambra shifted seamlessly from soloist to blended ensemble member, even when Andai was overly enthusiastic with dynamics. Within the bounds of classical restraint, Cambra was earnest and authentically expressive, if not perfectly clean.
The best moments were Cambra’s solo passages in the pensive Andante, poetically eloquent even with single notes. In the final Presto, Cambra’s fiery opening theme was matched enthusiastically by Andai, and although Cambra suffered several spates of nerves, with each return of the theme he regained momentum for an impressive ending.
“7 paintings + 7 stories = 7 world premieres” was a community engagement project between MISO and the children of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami Dade County. Over eight visits with MISO musicians, the children enjoyed live performances, painted watercolors, and combined their artwork to create stories. Video by Fernando Duprat displayed the watercolors and the children’s charming narration of their stories.
Inspired by the children’s’ work, three of MISO’s six composers-in-residence — Sam Hyken, Orlando Garcia, and Tulio Cremisini — contributed six miniatures, with MISO music director Eduardo Marturet providing the seventh.
Most tried to illustrate the stories, including Hyken channeling John Williams for The Adventures of Indiana Penguin, and Marturet quoting Offenbach’s Can-Can to suggest a grand party in Wizard Turtle. Less programmatic and more enchanting was Orlando Garcia’s The Boy and the Magical Flower with delicately shifting, swelling colors complementing swirls in the projected watercolors.
Wrapping up the program was Antonio Salieri’s Italianate Sinfonia in D major “La Veneziana.” Contrary to the unfortunate portrayal in the movie Amadeus, Salieri was a skillful composer of light Classical music.
In the Allegro assai, MISO’s strings delivered excitement, encouraged by Andai’s clear guidance. He clearly shaped foreground and background elements by fully exploiting dynamics and articulations, distilling an array of coloristic effects from the compact chamber orchestra. Light lower strings had a weightless quality under the violins’ lyrical melodies., and slight intonation issues in the strings on the exposed lines of the Andantino grazioso were redeemed in the triumphant Presto under Andai’s playful direction.
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